So my journey through Final Fantasy XV has been continuing on, mixing up the story chapters with running back and doing batches of side quests and hunts. Or just driving around and listening to the Final Fantasy VI soundtrack – because I mean, DAMN. Terra, Celes, Locke, Sabin, & Edgar’s themes? AND Dancing Mad? That is one fine collection of music. More than I can say for Final Fantasy X’s selection of songs in XV which includes the battle music… and uh… that one song that plays when Tidus whines about listening to his story? Seriously? You left out the Hymn of the Fayth? You could have dropped one of the FOUR compilations of Final Fantasy XI music to give us a few more iconic songs from X. Or maybe included X-2, XIII-2 or Lightning Returns’ music AT ALL. I mean, Dissidia and Type-0 is in there. All I’m saying is I want my boy band quartet jamming out to Real Emotion as they drive around Duscae.
Anyway, I haven’t exactly been pursuing the ending with a fervor. I take my time with RPGs and I enjoy exploring and all the little doodads. Which is useful because like 50% of XV’s plot is told via radio blips, overheard conversations and newspaper clippings. Seriously, if you aren’t checking that stuff out you will be missing a TON of whats going on in Eos. However, if half the plot is revealed in little side things that you can check out, I’d say that about another 40% of the story isn’t told until you reach the most divisive and controversial moment of the game: Chapter 13.
Without spoiling too much of the narrative that goes on, Chapter 13 is the penultimate chapter of the game and could rightfully be viewed as the final dungeon. Much of the explanation for what has been happening and why it is happening all occurs here. However, the chapter itself is a 90+ minute jog through endless tight corridors without weapons, companions or the ability to save outside of the occasional safe room. The halls are filled with enemies, jump scares, blind corridors, and the voice of the main villain enthusiastically mocking you. Your only real defense is the Ring of the Lucii, which gives you three spells:
- Death: Must be channeled and expends MP all the while. Tougher enemies take longer to channel than weaker ones. Heals you when the enemy ultimately dies.
- Holy: It’s more of a dodge that also does damage than an attack. You hold down the button, MP starts draining. If you are melee attacked while holding the button down, you dodge and blast the enemy with power. Also recovers a bit of MP when successful.
- Alterna: Uses your entire MP bar to suck everything in the area into a bubble and then destroy them. It’s your only AOE attack, and it will automatically drop you into ‘Stasis’ when you use it.
I’m sure from those brief descriptions you can see why some may be annoyed with the Ring over things like your weapons, Royal Arms, or normal spells. I ended up mostly using Death for the daemons and Holy for the Magitek Troops. Alterna I used like twice when I got overwhelmed. Then again, the enemies are pretty much all in their low 30’s, and I was level 88. Nothing in this place could really kill me unless I intentionally let them. About halfway through you do get one of the Royal Arms to help you with the fighting, but the Royal Arms weapons also drain your health with each swing. Ultimately, unless you are loaded with items like potions or ethers, the whole chapter becomes about resource management between your health, your magic, and your patience.
Since the games release a few weeks ago, Chapter 13 has become infamous among fans as the worst part of the game. Some have risen to defend it as almost an ‘artistic expression’ of the loneliness and isolation that Noctis is experiencing and forcing you – the player – to experience Noctis frustration as well. Some have described the chapter as “physically and emotionally draining” including the radical plot developments that occur over the course and especially at the end of the chapter. A few even took the chapter number into account and thought the long hallways were a satirical stab at Final Fantasy XIII. Others call it “lazy design” and would rather just see the whole thing removed from the game. So where do I stand?
Meh. I liked it.
I honestly did not see what the hub bub was about. I kept waiting for a Mass Effect 3 Ending level bomb to be dropped on me and quite honestly it just never came. In fact, I found the design and work on the area to be very interesting. Not in the “Noctis is frustrated, so you’ll be too” way but in the “This is a LOT like Resident Evil” way. You’re in the enemy capital, daemons everywhere, and your walking down these tight tunnels with barely enough room for two people to pass. There are blind corners everywhere and you have no clue what around them until you turn. All the while, the sound design gives spots of noises: scratches, weapons being dragged on concrete, grumbles of monsters from somewhere. It puts you on edge. It makes the whole thing feel dangerous. And this is coming from someone whose character was 50 levels above everything in that place and I STILL was jumping about when bad guys leaped out at me. It wasn’t lazy in my opinion, it was actually really cleverly designed to keep you in suspense. The maps opened up a bit more as things went on, especially when more plot details starting being delivered.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to say it’s a flawless piece of perfection or anything. Plot gets thrown at you fast and at full force and there’s a pile up of plot twists toward the end. But is that really so different than say… Final Fantasy X? Not saying that makes it better, but let’s not kid ourselves and pretend that Final Fantasy is renown for its well paced stories. Interesting and cool stories? Sure. But the pacing is all over the place.
Still, over all I don’t understand the immense hatred this part of the game gets. It’s a long maze of a dungeon. There’s a couple of puzzles in there. You get some story. It’s atmospheric. Does it take a while? Eh. I did it all in 90 minutes and that was with looking in every nook and cranny for shiny dots and reading all the lore material. Considering some of the areas you get to run through in Final Fantasy XIII, you’d think this would get more slack, yet I’ve seen – no joke – people comparing XIII favorably to this section of XV. I mean, I loved XIII. I’d pick it up and replay it in a heartbeat. But come on. Coooome ooooon.
In the end, I can see why some types of people would find Chapter 13 to be an annoyance or a slog. But I really wanted to throw my own hat in the ring and say that I really didn’t find it to be that way at all. I really didn’t find to be nearly as bad or unappealing that so many voices out there are shouting it is. I will say this though: It can be emotionally draining with all those big reveals and twists. You will want to punch the bad guy by the end. There is also some serious nightmare fuel hidden in the readable paper stacks scattered throughout. But hey, that’s half the fun of a good story, right?
I’m almost done with the game, so expect to hear my full thoughts and probably another one of those Type-0 style “What actually just happened here?” style posts coming up in the next few weeks.